WTO marks the 1st anniversary of World Cotton Day on 7 October
In many African least developed countries (LDCs), cotton is key to job creation and economic stability. /Xinhua

In many African least developed countries (LDCs), cotton is key to job creation and economic stability. /Xinhua

The spotlight was shone on the importance of cotton for millions of farmers, processors and traders globally as the  World Trade Organization marked the first anniversary of World Cotton Day.

The Cotton-4 group (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) initiated the cotton sectoral initiative at the WTO with the aim of improving the global trade rules as they relate to cotton, and to shed light on the many linkages among trade, cotton and development.

World Cotton Day aims to highlight the numerous gains enabled by international trade in cotton, including: selling to consumers abroad; increasing foreign exchange earnings; attracting investment in local businesses; employing more workers; and fostering growth and technology transfer in the wider economy.

While widely appreciated as a fibre used to make textiles and clothes, cotton is also used in the production of edible oils, animal feed and fuel. 

Cotton production, processing, and trade represent a key source of income for a number of economies worldwide.

In many African least developed countries (LDCs), cotton is key to job creation and economic stability.

At the WTO, members have taken meaningful steps to promote cotton trade. They have eliminated agricultural export subsidies, enhanced market access for cotton and cotton by-product exports from LDCs and worked to enable developing countries to benefit more from every step of the cotton value chain. 

Nevertheless, it is widely believed that more can be done to level the playing field for cotton producers, especially in LDCs.

The annual World Cotton Day celebrations are an opportunity to recognize the importance of this global commodity – and to push forward with positive economic, development and sustainable trade policies.

For the 2020 edition, the WTO has established a dedicated webpage that brings together contributions from ministers, ambassadors, heads of organizations and the private sector on the importance of cotton and the relevance of World Cotton Day to their respective countries and organizations.  

The WTO has also set up a stand in its headquarters to celebrate cotton, with the distribution of souvenirs and information on cotton to staff and delegates.

The importance of cotton to Cotton-4 countries

Cotton production is the source of livelihood to over 4 million farmers in Africa, of which around 1 million are located in the Cotton-4 countries.

For the Cotton-4 countries, cotton earnings represent between 8 to 12% of their annual Gross Domestic Production (GDP) and account for up to 40% of their total export revenue.

Current world cotton production is above 26 million tonnes from which more than 8 million tonnes are traded globally every year.

The Cotton-4 countries export approximately 800,000 tonnes of cotton per year, totalling around 10% of the total world cotton exports.

(With input from World Trade Organization)